Much has been said recently about consumerism and health care, but it’s not just about shopping around for lower prices for medical services and prescriptions. Consumerism also involves making healthy lifestyle choices to lower health risks.
Today it’s nearly impossible for most of us to wrap our minds around the fact that, at the turn of the previous century, a single infectious disease (tuberculosis) was responsible for one out of every seven deaths. Twentieth-century medical advances (including vaccinations, treatments, and early detection) have virtually eradicated some of the worst diseases in the world: measles, polio, typhoid fever, smallpox, and more.
Because of this, the focus on health care in the twenty-first century has shifted from diseases caused by organisms to health problems with behavioral causes, such as those related to diet, smoking, and alcohol abuse. In fact, one recent study suggested that behavior and lifestyle factors contribute to 50 percent of a person’s overall health. Anything that can help people modify their behaviors and take control of their own health can have a very positive impact.
A large majority of American adults have a smartphone, and a growing percentage also has a tablet device. A recent Pew study tells us that half of all smartphone owners have looked up health or medical information on their smartphone, and that nearly 20 percent have downloaded an app to help them track or manage their health.
Since you probably already carry your smartphone with you everywhere you go, it makes sense to leverage the technology to assist yourself in making better choices and developing better health behaviors. Here’s a roundup of some top-rated mobile apps (and, in some cases, companion devices) to help you get healthy and stay healthy.
Diet and Exercise
MyFitnessPal (free, iOS & Android) combines a calorie counter, nutrition tracker, and exercise logger with a web interface that connects to a supportive user community.
LoseIt (free, iOS & Android) tracks food and activity, synching with several other products and services, and even allows users to scan the barcodes of packaged foods they eat.
MapMyFitness (free, iOS & Android) a suite of fitness apps and portals that enables you to track the places you run, walk, bike, hike, and walk your dog.
QuitNow! (free, iOS & Android) provides real-time tracking since a user’s last cigarette, and allows quitters to share their success on social media.
LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach (free, iOS) gives help for cold-turkey and gradual quitters, allowing them to track their cravings and set and record goals.
12 Steps AA Companion ($2.99/$1.00, iOS and Android) provides the full text of Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Big Book” and enables users to find a local AA meeting based on their current location.
Breathometer (about $50, iOS and Android) is an external sensor that attaches to a smartphone and determines the blood alcohol content of someone who has been drinking.
Dosecast Free Edition (free, iOS & Android) allows scheduled reminders to take medications, automatically adjusts time zones and can be configured daily, weekly, or monthly.
Medscape (free, iOS & Android) provides an extensive drug reference, including an interaction checker.
iBP Blood Pressure ($.99, iOS & Android) enables blood pressure tracking for multiple users, sending the results to multiple email addresses (user and the user’s doctor).
Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor (about $120, iOS & Android) a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuff that takes your blood pressure and transmits and tracks the results on your smartphone.
AllergyCast by Zyrtec (free, iOS & Android) provides pollen index and weather forecast for people with severe environmental allergies.
Find Me Gluten Free (free, iOS & Android) helps people with gluten intolerance locate gluten-free food options in restaurants and grocery stores.
Glucose Buddy (free, iOS & Android) allows users to log glucose numbers, carb consumption, and insulin dosages, and to set reminders to test glucose levels.
Fooducate (free, iOS & Android) helps diabetics identify foods that are high in sugar and other ingredients, either through a search or by scanning a barcode.
My Pregnancy Today (free, iOS &Android) allows expectant moms to track pregnancy weight gain, monitor fetal development, follow a pregnancy checklist, and connect with other users.
BabyBump Pregnancy Pro ($3.99/$2.99, iOS & Android) provides tracking of weight and contractions and plenty of social features.
Baby Connect ($4.99, iOS and Android) record diaper changes, naps, mood, doctor visits, milestones, and other aspects of a baby’s development.
Aquafresh Brush Time USA (free, iOS & Android) uses a musical timer to coach kids to brush specific sections of their mouth, earning accessories for their online avatar characters.
Brush DJ (free, iOS & Android) provides a musical brush timer, and reminders to brush and floss, change toothbrushes, and visit the dentist.
LoveMySkin Mole Map ($.99, iOS) helps users document and monitor moles for the early detection of skin cancer.